In a fairly common recent example, a roofing firm and its managing director were prosecuted and fined by the Health and Safety Executive after a member of the public alerted them to the fact that they had seen a man standing on the sloping roof of a semi-detached house with no protection or harness. He was using a jet washer to clear debris - ensuring the roof was wet and even less secure - without any safety measures in place. HSE proceeded to immediately issue a Prohibition Notice to protect the employee.
Employers must take responsibility for the Health and Safety of their employees and it is important that measures are put in place before any accidents occur, rather than after an accident has happened. With constant media spotlight on this area of law and abundant numbers of consultants offering advice and services, employers have plenty of sources of advice available although it does produce a cost burden. However, there are some important steps which all employers can at least be aware of.
Who is in charge?
Firstly, decide who will manage your company's health and safety duties. You should ensure it is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience. This may be yourself, an employee or another company who specialise in this area, or even a combination of all three.
Write a Health & Safety Policy
This is compulsory for businesses with 5 or more employees. You must communicate to your employees the importance you place upon health and safety and provide an overview of your commitment together with stating who is ultimately responsible for what.
What are the risks?
In order to manage risks, you need to understand what risks exist. The best way to do this is to carry out risk assessments. The purpose of a risk assessment is to (a) identify a potential risk; (b) consider how this risk can be managed; and (c) put in place any appropriate measures to control the risk. Businesses with 5 or more employees require to have written risk assessments.
Consult your employees
Those carrying out the jobs are best placed to discuss the risks and potential solutions so it is crucial they are consulted in relation to the work they do. Their views in relation to how to provide information and training will also be important to consider to ensure that any messages or advice is effectively communicated.
Provide training and information
It is widely recognised that there is a hierarchy of control underpinning health and safety legislation which places training low down on the list of effectiveness. Eliminating hazards, substituting hazards and providing engineering controls will always be more effective. However, in spite of this, it remains crucial that there is clear communication with all employees and training is provided when necessary.
Consider your working environment
You will require to consider all facilities used by your employees and whether these meet their needs and are working effectively. You should also ensure there are first aid arrangements in place and procedures to deal with accidents and ill health.
Display the Health and Safety Law Poster
If you have any employees, this poster must be displayed. Please note that from 5 April 2014, the new version of this poster requires to be displayed.
Check your insurance
It is self evident that adequate cover is in place. Employers are obliged to have employer's liability cover but you should check that there is adequate public, motor and other relevant policy cover.
Keep up to date
Finally, you should regularly review health and safety as it is a constantly evolving area and keeping up to date with any developments will ensure you remain compliant. In summary, the burdens on employers are perhaps not as easy as ABC. They are in fact fairly onerous. However, with a common sense approach, good management and time invested assessing and properly identifying the risks, together with perhaps some external advice, all employers should be able to comply with the requirements.
The challenge with health and safety is to balance the commercial needs of the company with the necessity of having a safe place for workers to carry out their job.